PITTSBURGH – In his 177th career start, Ben Roethlisberger had just recaptured the lead over the Cowboys with a 13-year veteran type of play: a fake spike and throw to All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown into the end zone.
Trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-29, what went through Dak Prescott's mind in the final minute of his ninth career start?
"Forty seconds is a lot of time, especially with three timeouts," he said. "Just saying over and over and over, 'We do this in practices every Thursday, 40 seconds and three timeouts.'"
What about the largest crowd in Pittsburgh history (67,737), most of them in Steelers gear, screaming at him?
"It's really all just noise," he said.
Poise over noise. Prescott isn't any ordinary rookie quarterback. Then again, that much has become as clear as the supermoon over Pittsburgh on Sunday night.
With a cool, calm and clutch final touchdown drive, he earned his eighth straight victory in his first and only stretch as an NFL starter – tying Kyle Orton (Chicago, 2005) and trailing only Roethlisberger (13 in 2004) for the most consecutive wins by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Ezekiel Elliott's 32-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left capped the Cowboys' deciding five-play, 75-yard drive in a 35-30 victory at Heinz Field. Prescott went 3-of-4 on the drive with three straight completions for 28 yards before Elliott's run. The final two went to tight end Jason Witten, and a 15-yard facemask penalty on Pittsburgh put the Cowboys in range for a score.
"What he was able to do on that drive was outstanding," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "He showed great poise in the pocket with people all around him, standing in there and delivering throws. He was outstanding.
"It's contagious throughout our team. Guys believed in him. Everyone believed in each other. We executed the way we needed to, to win the game."
Prescott (22-of-32, 319 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) posted a 121.7 passer rating, making him the first rookie in NFL history to have seven starts with a 100-plus rating in his team's first nine games of a season.
Like the Cowboys' Oct. 30 overtime win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Prescott faced adversity – mainly in the form of pass rush – for much of the game.
On the third play from scrimmage, the Steelers forced a sack/fumble that led to an early touchdown. At halftime, excluding his screen pass that Elliott took 83 yards for a touchdown, Prescott was 7-of-14 for 75 yards.
He seemed to settle in by the third quarter and delivered a 50-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant that regained a 23-18 lead.
But, like his touchdown pass to Witten in overtime two weeks ago, Prescott's most important plays were at crunch time.
"I just thought he was remarkable," Garrett said. "I thought he was great throughout the game dealing with different situations and then particularly at the end of the game. He made plays when he needed to make them. He did that a number of different times throughout the ball game to keep us in the game, and then certainly at the end of the game."
At 8-1, the Cowboys have the best record in the NFL. At 8-1, Prescott is off to the best start of any Cowboys rookie quarterback ever.
What's going through his mind after win No. 8 in a row?
"We have to go and get another one," he said.